The payment of TV (Television) Licence is a worldwide form of taxation, nations charge on their citizens, to sustain a national broadcaster. This TV Licence is actually a charge on all citizens for the provision and control of information in the national interest. It aim at allowing the national broadcaster to play a critical role in national development and security.
The TV license therefore aim at removing the direct control of the national information from the politicians, to an independent broadcaster, so the best interest of the nation will be first before none. By relieving the national Broadcaster of petty political interest and interference, at the expense of national goal, the independence of the national information provider put the interest of the citizens first. The approach ensures objective reporting, forwarding looking agenda and nationalistic vision in its orientation. As the mission of all national broadcaster state to; educate, entertain and inform, the Ghana national broadcaster is not an exception.
In achieving these noble ideals, the best approach then became making the ultimate beneficiary of the best result out of decent broadcasting, to pay for the services of thr national broadcaster which became the citizen, through direct taxation. This then make the broadcaster to be financially independent and accountable to the citizen by its service provisions. In fact, the national Broadcaster is not expected to raise revenue from any other sources than from the citizens' TV licence fee. This citizen is in turn, expected to pay by the quality of his development and sense of security.
It's sad no one like paying for TV licence anywhere in the world but, the challenge of generating revenue from TV licence fee, is worse in underdeveloped countries than the developed ones. In fact the development of those in the developed countries explains why they pay TV licence fee, as the service provision is evidenced by the people's level of security and development. This as well, explain why those of the underdeveloped countries, to whom development has been a myth than reality, find it difficult to pay TV licence fee. Why pay for security in an underdeveloped society where death stire at one every seconds?
Ghanaians in their millions are defying the call on them to pay TV licence to the national Broadcaster, as demanded by law. The law on the payment of TV licence fee is not new to Ghanaians. The law has been in place for some time, as it does in almost every one of the 15 member states of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).
Since the payment of TV licence fee is a form of tax by the state to levy specified amount on citizens for owning and using TV set, the payment of the tax has nothing to do with whether a citizen who own the set, watches the state TV programs or not. It's purely about taxing the citizens to pay for the national information service because of the critical role of information control to national security and development. One is then force to ask for why citizens of Ghanaians have problem with paying for the national security and development which is part of a citizen patriotic duty?
The answer then become very clear when one carefully listen to the reasons for why the Ghanaian is questioning the payment of service the national Broadcaster is providing. The Ghanaian is actually questioning the benefit of the national Broadcaster's service, in the payees life. I fact, the Ghanaian is questioning the law itself, by questioning the manner by which the employees of the law are playing their roles and using the law as a cash cow. In a democratic environment, this dictatorial exploitation, is a legitimate concern.
Prior to the introduction of VAT (Value Add d Tax) in the taxation system of Ghana, personal income tax and export of national resources, form the main budget of Ghana. The domestic industrial base was so small and formal employment was not tat high. Thus, the national Broadcaster is catered for from the national annual budget with the hope that its role will evolve the Ghanaian into a more productive being. The introduction of VAT was necessitated by the need to make up for the shortages in national revenue, to meet up with all national commitments, when demand on state expenditure was gaining mumentuim over revenue. So as salaries and cost of running the state grew, the budget become over stretched, calling for other sources of revenue, as our national income fall short of expenditure.
The national Broadcasting service then become a challenge as budget allocation to it shrink. The broadcaster then started to struggle with its meagre in meeting up with its critical responsibilities of national security and development. This challenge even became worse with political instability, as cronyism, nepotism and ethnocentrism became rife in the affairs of the national broadcaster. The transition from our state national broadcaster's era of monopoly, to an era of deregulation of bradcasting in Ghana, also came with its own challenge. The big fish is no more alone in the pond.
These changes in Ghana, coupled with the increasing cost and competition in the media, gave the national Broadcaster no any other choice than to resort to the 1960s law on revenue. The TV licence law was activated, to keep up with its mandate and national responsibilities.
In fact the docile national broadcaster did strive to redeem its years of damaged image to no avail, in wooing back the Ghanaian populace. What the national Broadcaster did not realise is, its own long misplaced priorities has failed the Ghanaian, enough to make the ordinary person have any confidence in the broadcaster. The citizen has lost total confidence in the GBC as an active partner in national security and development. There was no doubt the national Broadcaster lost the clearer understanding of its role in the life of the Ghanaian.
What has been happening is, the national broadcaster is pretending to be serving the devil, without falling on the Ghanaian for any TV licence fee, while the Ghanaian who is happy not to be the one directly paying for the pretence of the national broadcaster, seem to play the unconcerned observer. Like a child in a public school classroom whose teacher is not doing his work, the Ghanaian enjoy being left alone to face his pathetic fate.
Informations we said, is the most critical factor in the development of a citizen. Thus, the kind of information citizen consume define the focus of what they invest their energies on. Information defines a people's culture. Information shed clearer light on a people's sense of their history, explain the state's laws to its people, uncover the genuine politicians, strengthen the institutions and the define the traditions that best serve the national interest. Information. clear all ambiguities around the five core elements of a people's culture. It shape how a people must understand their challenge and how to solve it. So the poorer the information a people gets on a challenge, the worse the end up trying to solve it.
The heap of unresolve challenges facing the Ghanaian today, says a lot about the kind of national broadcaster we have. If today, we have millions of Ghanaians poorly inform and therefore still undeveloped enough to be capable of producing their basic modern manufactured needs, then the work the national Broadcaster has done over the years, is unhelpful.
The average Ghanaian today is misinform by the national broadcaster into understanding his crude indigenous past as the most important thing in his life, when actually the broadcaster itself need modern imported items for broadcasting information, the poorly educated Ghanaians are incapable of producing. How consistent is this? The national broadcaster disguising under misunderstood version of culture and tradition, engaged the minds of Ghanaians on information about irrelevant items that have no bearing on the modern day needs of the Ghanaian.
The worse is, the Ghanaian national Broadcaster has degenetated to a state of inviting fake witch doctors, quark religious related practioners and what have you, in the name of tradition to mislead Ghanaians. Our national broadcaster removed itself from the responsibility of ensuring genuine information content, and left the vulnerable citizens to fish out the right and wrong content.
Our national Broadcaster become a medium of marketing fake medications, with all sorts of questionable claims, to mislead Ghanaians into believing and consuming dangerious items. One even question whether GBC is now own by religious and ethnotribal bodies, when the state of Ghana is suppose to be more of a secular state, as possible.
Hardly anyone in Ghana, who is not a lier, thanks to our GBC. Children in Ghana grow watching GBC feeding the entire population with all sorts of lies, in all forms imaginable. Our national broadcaster has has reach the peak of throwing trust to the dogs, as anarchy reigns amidst free for all lies. GBC even invite public sector worker, including highly place state security personnel and politicians, to misinform Ghanaians. Again this is done, without the authority playing the role of ensuring right thought provoking questions in safeguard the concerns of the TV licence fee, are fully exhausted.
In fact millions of Ghanaians like my humble self, rather have their families to watch 1960 Sesmi Street, than waste time watching or listening to the programs of our national broadcaster.
So instead of being a blessing that develop the Ghanaian in every field of life, the national Broadcaster is ridden with all forms of infectious bureaucracy to confuse and underdevelop the Ghanaian. The national Broadcaster is sadly unaware of how much damage it has done to the Ghanaian and here we are being ask to pay for our psychological nemies?
Yes, we have no doubt we need a national Broadcaster, regardless to the number of private broadcasters that now exist in our country. The question is, must the Ghanaian continue paying for a national Broadcaster that is confusing and underdeveloping the Ghanaian? Of course, No! Then how do we move from here, as Ghanaians are not seeing the positives of the national broadcaster in their lives?
In proceeding from here, it's important to point out that the rebellious stance of the Ghanaian is not just to the national Broadcaster but to all our state services by law, whose role are not reflective of the quality of life of the Ghanaian. All the citizens are saying is, they are tired of paying public sector workers for doing nothing. We are tired for paying people to develop us into those capable of living as masters of our destiny, and all we get for paying is, daily increase in our sense of insecurity.
We are now between the devil and the deep sea. We cannot afford to exist without our national Broadcaster, as a critical part of our national development and security. We are however too poor to be paying fraudulent cash cow who are pretending to be empowering us into productive people.
We are therefore at a cross road of either paying for business as usual, or standing up to device a mechanism fit for progressive people.
The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) was once right in the same soup we are today, but has now moved on. It will therefore be helpful to get the honest brains to study the BBC approach, to wriggle us out of this embraglow. It is only by this effort that the frustrated Ghanaians can recandle his trust in the National Broadcaster.
Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
(ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocates)
[email protected], 07737224787